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Rogers Pass, Then and Now

Rogers Pass a fascinating story of railroading triumphs,luxury Canadian Pacific Hotel and mountaineering and tourism



Incredulously, I peered out the window of the overloaded car and into the liquor store at which we had made a brief pit stop.

“He couldn’t be!” I exclaimed in disbelief. “Steve is actually buying a case of beer!”

Myself, I had been more sensible. My pack already overloaded with a sizeable sleeping bag, a hefty camera, a bladder of water, food and extra clothes, I had opted to keep my recreational beverages to a minimum. Chai tea, sugar and a small bottle of Fireball Whiskey would sustain me for the evening, and is, incidentally, an excellent light and compact beverage to bring on any overnight hike!

A former Whistler kid and still fairly new to Revelstoke, Steve loped over to the car and climbed in, beer under his arm and a goofy grin on his face. We were all set. Rob threw the car in reverse and we were off, speeding eastward along the Trans Canada on the short drive from Revelstoke to historic Rogers Pass and Glacier National Park where the Asulkan Valley beckoned.

With hikes starting at an altitude of over 1,200 metres the window of opportunity for summer exploration of the park is small. Often receiving over 12 metres of snowfall annually, many trails are still under snow pack well into July. This, combined with steep and treacherous terrain, contributed to the decline of the Glacier House Resort, a luxury Canadian Pacific hotel that once existed atop this lofty pass. All that remains today are faded photos of an era long past and crumbling stone foundations littered among the dense foliage of the Illecillewaet Campground.

After watching in amusement as Steve loaded his pack with twelve cold ones, the four of us embarked on our mission, lighthearted despite the hefty backpacks pressing onto our shoulders. The decommissioned Canadian Pacific rail bed formed the first part of the trail, taking us to the ruins of the Glacier House, where well-to-do guests once disembarked for a night in the Canadian wilderness at the foot of the Illecillewaet Glacier. We continued into the forest and up toward the fields of ice beyond.

Construction of a railway that linked the new province of British Columbia to the rest of the country was a promise our first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald made to Canadians in 1871. This land link would end B.C.’s isolation and prevent the colony’s absorption into the United States.